GoodReads Blurb: The Scandal Sheets call him Lord Ice. Ruthless, cold, precise, Julian Spenser, Marquess Dryden, tolerates only the finest—in clothes, in horseflesh, in mistresses. And now he’s found the perfect bride, the one whose dowry will restore his family’s shattered legacy and bring him peace at last: the exquisite heiress Lisbeth Redmond. She’s not afraid to play with fire. But one unforgettable encounter with Lisbeth’s paid companion, Phoebe Vale, and the Marquess is undone: this quiet girl with the wicked smile and a wit to match is the first person to see through the icy façade to the fiery man beneath. But their irresistible attraction is a torment as sweet as it is dangerous: for surrendering to their desire could mean losing everything else they ever wanted…
LET ME START BY SAYING THAT I AM one of Julie Anne Long’s fangirls. I absolutely adore the Pennyroyal Green series, and I have re-read all of my favourites, most recently “What I Did For a Duke”. So I have been waiting for the sixth instalment in this series with bated breath. Sadly, I have seen a lot of complaints in threads and in reviews that Ms. Long gets quite a few of the historical details wrong. As long as I don’t notice these things they do not bother me (though I don’t care to have them pointed out to me, to be honest, then they tend to annoy me). I can understand, however, that it would irk readers with a good knowledge of the time period (of which I am somewhat vague, but, again – that suits me fine). But I digress. Probably, because I am writing this review so reluctantly as I have to confess that I was fairly disappointed in this book.
I cannot fault the writing – the sentences or dialogue never feel contrived or stilted and Ms. Long has such a wonderful way with words, that the prose is absolutely magical at times. Very few authors can evoke emotions the way she can. So I feel the anticipation/excitement/joy/passion/anguish and grief as her main characters do. In one scene, Phoebe’s beloved cat Charybdis is lost, and I suffer with her as she comes to face with the fact that he might be gone forever, and in the next scene I feel as frantic as Julian, the Marquess, as he hunts desperately to try and find the feline.
This is from a point in the book where Phoebe hears opera for the first time:
The music twined around Phoebe, and in moments held her fast, in thrall. She yearned to know the next note, the next phrase. It was a fresh and delightful shock when each was lovelier than the next. Anticipation ramped and ramped. The voice slipped in almost unnoticed, like an interloper into a party. It insinuated itself between notes, and then surreptitiously, then ever more boldly, climbed, and climbed, and climbed . . . until it soared above the music. Brazen and glorious. Dear God . . . the sound of it . . . it hurt, hurt to hear, such was its beauty. She felt swollen with it. She reached out and clutched the marquess’s sleeve without realizing it. As if to prevent herself from launching skyward. “What is it? The song. Please tell me what it is,” she demanded on a whisper. He looked down at her hand. And then down into her face. If she had known his breath had caught when she’d reached out for him . . . if she had seen his expression . . . then she might have backed away, confused by the unguarded confusion and hunger there. Or she might have flung herself into his arms. She was owned by the music. She’d closed her eyes.
However, I was not so happy about having to read about a cousin to the Redmonds. A not very likeable young lady at that, and she was not even the main female character. So in essence, even if the setting was Pennyroyal Green in Sussex and London, as per usual, and I met some of the beloved characters from earlier books in passing, the story was in not about a Redmond or an Eversea but about Phoebe Vale, a teacher at the academy for recalcitrant young girls and some totally unconnected Marquess. It turns out he is connected because he wants to marry the Redmond cousin Lisbeth, so that he can get land that once belonged to his family back in form of dowry.
Another disappointment I have with this book, apart from not thinking that it is a true Pennyroyal Green-book, was that I felt there were some inconsistencies and a very forced obstacle to the HEA. Phoebe is planning to leave her employment at the academy to join a group of missionaires bound for Africa. At first this seems like a distant plan, apparently she has not saved up enough money. Then, suddenly because she wins some money in a card game, she is set to leave directly with the group of missionaries who are departing very conveniently in a very near future. Further, she does not seem to have anchored this idea of leaving with Ms. Endicott of the academy.
The first encounter between Phoebe and Julian takes place in the village store, where he is looking for a gift for Lisbeth Redmond:
He gestured to a case in a shadowy corner of the shop near the girls, far away from sunlight that could yellow or fade painted silk. “I hope you find something that pleases you.” Fat chance, Phoebe thought.
That Fat chance thought felt so out of place that I had to look the expression up, and the first time it is recorded to have been used was in the early 1900’s. It felt more modern than that, though.
The supporting cast is consisting of people who; apart from Jonathan Redmond, I don’t find very likeable. Lisbeth turns out to be a self obsessed mean girl and some young bloods and ladies of the ton play a cruel trick on Phoebe just for sport. Jonathan, by the way, has had the spelling of his name changed; throughout “Like No Other Lover” his name spells Jonathon. Very annoying. My final complaint is a repeated phrase towards the end of the book, after a very emotional scene Phoebe is leaving Julian and thinking that he is asleep, she tries to get away quietly. This is how this reads in my electronic version of the book:
And she slipped out of bed, and tiptoed across the carpet. She gave Charybdis a good morning kiss, then tiptoed across the carpet, collecting her gloves, her slippers.She tiptoes across the carpet. Twice. Sloppy.
Rounding off this whiny review, I would like to say that the first part of the book was more enjoyable than the second part, which felt rushed and as mentioned, somewhat forced. Despite this, it was an enjoyable and addictive read and had my expectations not been so high, I probably would not have felt as let down as I admittedly do. I am now waiting to read about Lyon and Olivia. I think it is time.
(read in January 2012)